We talk a lot about different types of video equipment on NextWaveDV…some you need and some you don’t.  I’ve put together a list of what are, in my opinion, the top 5 “must have” pieces of equipment for shooting video on HDSLRs.

LCD Loupe

This should be one of the first things you pick up. The LCD on the back of the DSLRs is good, not great, for focusing but it can be hard to see especially during the day. A good LCD loupe adds two things, magnification to the LCD screen and a third point of contact while shooting. This allows for steadier shots when running and gunning.

LCDVF – Pros: inexpensive, durable. Cons: no diopter for those who wear glasses.
Z-Finder – Pros: diopter, hard mounting options. Cons: very expensive.


Handheld is a type of shot but not one you should over use. A good tripod is necessary for 90% of your shots.  A good tripod can support the weight of your camera and rig while also providing smooth shots.

Davis & Sanford FM18 – Pros: inexpensive, good drag. Cons: no drag adjustment.
Manfrotto 504HD – Pros: good pan and tilt drag control. Cons: pricier.

Shoulder Rig

As we talked about before, an LCD loupe can help for handheld shots, but the true hand held look needs a shoulder rig.  Why?  Because handheld in movies is done by larger cameras and in order to get the “feel” of a larger camera, you need a rig that allows you to operate it like a larger camera.  Plus, this can reduce the micro jitters you can get when operating the camera without a shoulder rig, thus also reducing rolling shutter.

CPM Film Tools – I’ve been very impressed with their gear and they seem to have options to fit most budgets.


When operating the camera on a shoulder rig, tripod, jib, etc. you will probably need to see the screen from another angle than it’s fixed location.  Most DSLRs don’t have articulating screens, and those that do aren’t large enough to see from more than a foot away.  A monitor provides you the ability to position the screen for easy viewing.  Plus, when you purchase a pro monitor, you can have features like focus assist, peaking, auto fill, etc. that can make shooting a lot easier.

Manhattan LCD HD5 – Pros: high resolution, pro features. Cons: pricier.
Lilliput – Pros: inexpensive. Cons: lower resolution, no pro features.

Audio Recorder

Audio is half of video and recording good audio is the difference between a YouTube video and a film.  The onboard options for recording audio on most DSLRs is very limited so a good external recorder is a must.  This allows you to connect pro microphones depending on the need of the shoot.

Zoom H4n – Pros: XLR inputs, level controls, SD memory. Cons: eats batteries for dinner.

Zoom H1 – Pros: cheaper & smaller than the H4n. Cons: no XLR inputs (only 1/8″)

Runners up:

Good lenses are as important as a good camera as they can greatly affect the look of the video both in aperture, focal length and sharpness.
Why it din’t make the list – Usually you can get a decent kit lens with your camera which is good for starting off.

Lighting is probably the most important art of video.  It affects more than just the visibility of a scene, it also tells the audience how to feel.
Why it din’t make the list – There are tons of different lights to choose from, and just starting off you can get away with using available light when shooting at a high ISO and a fast lens.

As I said before, sound is half of video.  The better the mic, the better the sound.
Why it din’t make the list – Without a recorder, you can’t capture sound.  The Zoom recorders have built in mics that are good enough for getting started.  Then you can choose between shotguns and lavaliers when adding to your mic collection.